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UAE takeover of Socotra
Part of the Yemeni Crisis and the Yemeni Civil War
Socotra Dispute.png
  United Arab Emirates
  Socotra, Yemen
Date 30 April 2018 – 14 May 2018
(1 week)
Location Socotra, Yemen
Result Joint military training exercise agreed upon between Yemen and the UAE.
* UAE Army troops take over Socotra Airport, seaports, and all four islands of the archipelago on 30 April 2018.
  • Administrative control of the island returned to the Yemeni government on 14 May 2018.

</tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Belligerents</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Flag of Yemen.svg Yemen </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg United Arab Emirates </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Commanders and leaders</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Flag of Yemen.svg Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr
Flag of Yemen.svg Ahmed Abdallah Ali al-Socotri </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Units involved</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Flag of Yemen Armed Forces.svg Yemen Armed Forces </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">UAE Armed Forces Coat of Arms.svg United Arab Emirates Armed Forces </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Strength</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Unknown </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">100–300 troops </td> </tr></table>

On 30 April 2018, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deployed more than a hundred troops with artillery and armored vehicles to the Yemeni archipelago of Socotra in the Guardafui Channel without prior coordination with Yemen. The initial deployment consisted of UAE military aircraft carrying more than fifty UAE soldiers and two armored vehicles, followed by two more aircraft carrying more soldiers, tanks and other armored vehicles.[1][2] Al Jazeera reported that shortly after landing, UAE forces dismissed Yemeni soldiers stationed at administrative installations such as Socotra Airport and seaports until further notice, and the flag of the United Arab Emirates was raised above official government buildings in Hadibu.[3]

Yemen's internationally-recognised government condemned the takeover as "an act of aggression"; however no military resistance to Emirati troops was reported.[4]

The Independent newspaper reported that the UAE has politically annexed the island and built a communications network, as well as conducted census and provided Socotra residents with free healthcare and work permits in Abu Dhabi.[5]

Two weeks later on 14 May, Saudi troops were also deployed to the archipelago and a deal was brokered between the United Arab Emirates and Yemen for a joint military training exercise and the return of administrative control of Socotra's airport and seaport to Yemen.[6][7][8]


In 2016, the UAE increased supplies delivered to Socotra that had been largely abandoned and forgotten during the ongoing conflict. In October 2016, the 31st cargo aircraft landed in Socotra Airport containing two tons of aid.[9][10] At that time, the UAE also established a military base on the island as part of the Saudi led intervention.[9]

In 2017, Emirati troops had already been deployed on the island as part of the Saudi-led intervention, some Yemeni political factions accused the UAE of attempting to occupy Socotra and looting and ravaging the flora of the island.[9][11]


A statement from Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr’s office said the UAE military’s seizure of the seaport and airport on Socotra was an “unjustified” assault on Yemen’s sovereigny.[1] The UAE Foreign Ministry responded by saying it was "surprised" by the statement and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for "distorting" its role – "The UAE military presence in all liberated Yemeni provinces, including Socotra, comes within the efforts of the Arab Coalition to support legitimate government at this critical stage in the history of Yemen."[12]

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash tweeted, "Some have recently remembered Socotra Island to challenge the Arab coalition and the UAE. We have historical relations with the families and people of Socotra."[13]

On 3 May 2018, protests rallied against the UAE takeover, demanding an immediate withdrawal.[14] However on 6 May 2018, pro-Emirati supporters gathered in the island's capital Hadibu to support the UAE presence on the island.[13]

On 10 May 2018, the United States said it was "closely following the situation on the island of Socotra" and called for "de-escalation and dialogue" between the UAE and Yemen.[15]

On 11 May 2018, Turkey showed concern about the event. The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs said "we are closely following the recent developments in Yemen's Socotra Island. We are concerned about these developments that pose a new threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Yemen", and called on all relevant actors to respect the legitimate Yemeni government and to refrain from taking measures that could further complicate the situation.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Anger in Yemen after UAE troops take over ‘alien’ island of Socotra" (in en). South China Morning Post. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  2. "UAE deploys troops to Yemen’s Socotra island". The Daily Star - Lebanon. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  3. "Anger erupts on Yemen's Socotra as UAE deploys over 100 troops". Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  4. "UAE forces 'occupy' sea and airports on Yemen's Socotra". Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  5. "Socotra island: The Unesco-protected 'Jewel of Arabia' vanishing amid Yemen’s civil war". The Independent. 2 May 2018. 
  6. "Yemen PM: Crisis over UAE deployment to Socotra over". 
  7. "Yemen, UAE Agree on Deal Over Socotra". 14 May 2018. 
  8. "As Saudi Arabia and the UAE struggle for control of Socotra, Yemen’s island paradise may just swap one occupation for another". The Independent. 21 May 2018. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Socotra: How a strategic island became part of a Gulf power struggle". The Jerusalem Post. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018. 
  10. "UAE offers a helping hand to the island of Socotra" (in en). The National. Retrieved 8 May 2018. 
  11. Forster, Robert (2017). "The Southern Transitional Council: Implications for Yemen's Peace Process". 
  12. "UAE says military presence on Yemen's Socotra 'distorted'". Daily Mail. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Socotra residents rally in support of UAE". Gulf News. 6 May 2018. Retrieved 7 May 2018. 
  14. "Street protests continue on Yemen's Socotra island over growing UAE presence". The New Arab. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018. 
  15. "US calls for dialogue and de-escalation of situation in Yemen’s Socotra". Middle East Monitor. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2018. 
  16. "Turkey concerned by Yemen’s territorial integrity after UAE’s Socotra move". Daily Sabah. 11 May 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018. 

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